Albert Pujols had been pretty quiet this season, only going 2-for-14 & having his Opening Day home run washed out from the stat books. But the St. Louis slugger finally spoke up Wednesday night, hitting his first two official homers of the year in a 6-4 win over the Astros.
So, what finally go Pujols out of his slump? He may have been fired up from a pre-game confrontation with a Houston pitcher.
The HOUSTON CHRONICLE reports that Astros hurler Brandon Backe had a few choice words with Albert during warm-ups at Minute Maid Park, and the bickering duo had to be separated by Astros manager Cecil Cooper.
Backe was still apparently sore about Pujols’ actions the night before, when he slid hard into Astros catcher J.R. Towles. And that was apparently in reaction to Monday night’s game, when Towles was involved in a hard home plate collision with Troy Glaus.
(Tuesday’s tough slide against Towles)
But after Tuesday’s game, Pujols called the Astros clubhouse 30 minutes after the final out to give an apology for his sinister slide, which Towles said he accepted.
However, according to Albert, Brandon “kept pressing on” about the collision, and that “he had a problem with me calling over there.” So, the Cardinal decided to confront him - an action Backe didn’t appreciate:
“I felt violated. I felt he confronted me at the wrong time. I don’t think it was very professional on his part. Cooper was there and heard everything.”
Despite the verbal viciousness, both players are trying to downplay the incident. Backe said, “He had to say his peace to me, and I said my peace to him and that’s it.”
Meanwhile Pujols told reporters, “I already apologized and it’s over with … You guys don’t need to make this bigger than it is.”
Although Albert might have had second thoughts about the side, Bird boss Tony La Russa was proud of his player:
“I thought Albert did a fantastic job sliding to take his legs out. The kid is not giving anybody room to slide, so that’s what we teach. He’s going to get blasted one of these days.”
Back to the brohauah, Backe summed up his little tete-a-tete with Pujols:
“It’s apparent that we don’t like each other. That’s OK. There are plenty of other people I don’t like in this game. The competition between he and I just escalated.”
So, scratch Albert off the Christmas card list. And it should be a fun time April 27 at Busch Stadium, when Brandon is scheduled to start. Pujols might want to put on some extra padding for his at-bat, just in case some of Backe’s pitches get away from him.